Print-On-Demand vs. Large-Run Printing: Key Differences in 2024

The decision between whether to opt for print-on-demand vs. large-run printing has always been a major one for businesses. The web-to-print market is expected to grow by $528.71 million or by 8% between 2021 and 2025. So what’s the best way for businesses to capitalize?

Traditionally, printing a large run of products at once allows for a lower per-item printing cost, but also comes with a bit of risk, as businesses may get stuck with inventory that doesn’t sell. Print-on-demand eliminates inventory risk by only printing items as ordered, but it can come with higher per-item costs. 

However, as print-on-demand technology advances, many providers, such as Print Bind Ship, are ensuring that it becomes an increasingly viable option for all types of customer orders.

Determining which method makes the most economic sense for your business depends on analyzing all associated printing and fulfillment costs, expected sales volume, flexibility needed for updates, and more.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the distinct attributes of each order type to help you decide if print-on-demand or traditional large print runs are the right fit for your business. 

What is Print-on-Demand?

Print-on-demand (POD) is a relatively new approach that allows for the production of books, t-shirts, home decor, tote bags, candles, or just about any other printed materials in small quantities or even on an individual basis.

This method offers flexibility and cost-effectiveness, especially for smaller businesses that want to test the market or minimize inventory costs. With POD, there is no need for upfront investments in large print runs, storage space, or the risk of having unsold copies. Additionally, it allows for quick turnaround times, as products are printed and shipped as soon as they are ordered.

How Does Print-On-Demand Work?

For print-on-demand, businesses will typically work with a POD company to manage orders, printing, and even shipping to customers. Print Bind Ship, for example, is a leading printing and fulfillment company that allows businesses to work with a POD model. Here’s a breakdown of how the process works.

  • An order is placed, either through a retailer or the company’s website, and is sent to the POD partner. The printer then determines how many copies of the item need to be printed/fulfilled.
  • A digital image of the item is used to create an electronic file called an image set that is sent to the printer’s digital press.
  • The text and images are printed on the digital press and then assembled into the final product.
  • The finished product is shipped directly to the customer.
  • The customer pays for the product when the order is placed.

Printers charge for the materials used to print the item as well as shipping and packaging costs. Some printers also offer discounted pricing for customers who place bulk orders.

Benefits of Print-On-Demand

The benefits of print-on-demand are numerous and have revolutionized the way businesses address their inventory needs. Let’s take a look at some of the perks here:

Decreased Inventory Costs

Traditionally, businesses would print a large quantity of books or products in anticipation of future sales. This often resulted in unsold items sitting in storage, tying up valuable resources, and ultimately leading to financial losses.

However, with POD, items are printed in response to demand, meaning that only the exact number of products needed are printed at any given time. This not only eliminates the need for storing excess inventory but also minimizes the risk of financial loss.

No Upfront Printing Costs

The primary benefit of POD is that there are no upfront printing costs that have to be paid before selling a single item. This eliminates the financial risk of getting stuck with thousands of unsold products already printed through offset printing if sales underperform expectations.

Print Only What Sells

POD allows adjusting print quantities to precisely match market demand. Rather than guessing how many might sell based on risky forecasts, you only pay to print products as orders come in. There’s no tying up capital in printed inventory that may or may not sell.

Fast Fulfillment

With POD, each order can be printed and shipped in as little as 24 hours. There’s no “out of stock” to hold up delivery if you sell out of inventory printed months earlier. This speeds up cash flow and improves buyer satisfaction through fast fulfillment.

Easy to Update, Revise, Test

POD empowers making changes or updates by simply uploading a new file without getting stuck with now-obsolete printed stock. Testing selling potential by initially only printing small batches also minimizes risk.

Accessible Short-Run Printing

Whereas offset printing had high minimums, POD now makes printing as few as a couple of items economically practical. This opens revenue possibilities to very small niche markets ignored by traditional production.

Potential Cons of Print-On-Demand

Despite the many benefits, POD has its disadvantages which are discussed below.

  • The cost of using POD can be higher if you use this method for large-quantity orders.
  • Shipping and handling fees can be expensive since items are shipped directly from the printer to the customer.
  • Customized products may take longer to produce than standard products because they require the involvement of multiple steps such as design, printing, and assembly.

When to Use Print-On-Demand

Print-on-demand is an ideal choice when flexibility and cost-effectiveness are paramount. Businesses should consider using POD when dealing with unpredictable demand or testing the waters with new products. This approach allows for the production of small quantities as needed, minimizing the risk of overstocking and reducing upfront financial investments.

POD services offer quick turnaround times, making it advantageous for adapting swiftly to market trends or fulfilling orders promptly. Whether you are a startup with budget constraints or an entrepreneur exploring niche markets, POD provides a scalable and efficient solution, ensuring that you can meet customer demand without the burden of large, upfront production costs.

What is Large-Run Printing?

Large-run printing, or bulk printing, refers to manufacturing a large quantity of identical printed items all at once. Large runs make economic sense any time a company expects to sell very high quantities of the same item.

Running thousands of copies non-stop allows the very high upfront setup costs to be spread across overall cheaper per-item pricing. The production process is also fairly more streamlined because products can be created in the same facility and shipped in bulk once completed.

When businesses place an order for large-run printing, they will need to have confidence that the merchandise will move swiftly or they may be stuck with unsold inventory and additional warehousing fees.

Benefits of Large-Run Printing

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons companies will opt for large-run or bulk printing.


This method allows you to minimize production costs by eliminating the need to purchase additional supplies for each item produced. You are also able to keep your production costs low by using the same equipment and processes for multiple orders rather than paying extra to use them only once.

Fast Turnaround

Since your products can be produced in one central location and shipped in bulk, you don’t need to outsource your orders to third-party vendors. Centrality can reduce processing time from several weeks to a few days, allowing you to meet your shipping deadlines easily.

High-Volume Production

Most large-run printing services allow you to print over 1,000 copies of a single product in a single run. This feature allows you to meet the demand for a large number of products and ship them to your customers faster at a lower cost.

Potential Cons of Large-Run Printing

Some of the disadvantages of large-run printing are:

  • Potentially higher costs: Larger quantities mean higher shipping costs.
  • Longer production time: Because of the bulk nature of large-run printing, it can be slower than traditional printing methods. It may take several days or weeks to complete a large order with this method.
  • Limited customization options: Large-run printing is best suited for products that are very similar or identical in design and appearance. It can be challenging to produce products with distinct designs and unique packaging using this method.
  • Higher minimum order requirements: Some large-run printing services require a minimum order of 500 copies to qualify for discounts. This minimum can be a deterrent for small businesses and startups that don’t have a large customer base yet.

When to Use Large-Run Printing?

Large-run printing is the preferred choice when businesses anticipate consistent and high demand for their products. This method becomes cost-effective when producing items in bulk, allowing for economies of scale that reduce the per-unit cost.

Large-run printing is suitable for well-established products with a stable customer base, ensuring that the initial higher investment pays off over time through long-term cost savings. It is particularly advantageous for maintaining brand consistency, as the uniformity in color, quality, and branding is preserved across the entire print job.

Businesses looking to explore wholesale opportunities, establish a strong brand identity, and cater to a broad market can benefit from large-run printing, leveraging its efficiency to fulfill larger orders and build lasting relationships with retailers and customers alike.

What is Short-Run Printing?

Short-run printing is used to print small quantities of one or a few similar items. This type of printing is ideal for smaller businesses and startups that need one-time or small-batch printing but can’t afford the high costs associated with high-volume printing. 

Short-run printing typically involves using digital printers instead of offset presses. This process makes it faster and less expensive to print small batches of products, but it is typically not suitable for more complex designs or multiple colors.

Benefits of Short-Run Printing

  • Lower prices: While short-run printing is still more expensive than digital printing methods, it is significantly less expensive than large-scale printing methods such as offset printing.
  • More flexibility: Because short-run printing uses digital printing methods, it’s usually easier to get different designs printed more quickly. With offset printing, you have to send out your art files and wait for approval before starting production. This process can take several days and delay the production schedule.
  • More customization options: Digital printing allows for more flexibility when it comes to customizing your designs. You can make changes on the fly and reprint as needed without incurring additional charges for design revisions.
  • Easier ordering process: Short-run printing doesn’t require a lengthy approval process and makes it easy to reorder more copies of your products. You can usually place your order online and have your products delivered to your doorstep within just a few days.

Potential Cons of Short-Run Printing

  • Slow turnaround times: The turnaround times associated with short-run printing are largely dependent on the volume of orders you receive.
  • Limited color options: Most short-run printers have limited color options available for printing projects. If you want to print a colorful design, you’ll need to work with a longer-lasting print method such as offset printing.
  • Less sophisticated designs: Short-run printers are best suited for simple designs such as business cards, brochures, flyers, stickers, and other marketing materials.

When to Use Short-Run Printing?

Short-run printing is the preferred choice when businesses require a moderate quantity of printed materials without committing to large production volumes. 

Short-run printing allows for cost-effective production of smaller quantities, making it an ideal solution for businesses with limited budgets or those testing new marketing materials, promotional items, or product packaging. It provides the flexibility to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and customer preferences.

Additionally, short-run printing is advantageous for businesses that prioritize minimizing waste and storage costs, as it enables them to print only the quantity needed at a given time, reducing the risk of excess inventory.

How to Decide Which Printing Method is Right For You?

Whether to opt for print-on-demand vs. large-run printing or even short-run printing depends on your business needs. Consider the anticipated demand for your item and whether you can afford to pay the higher upfront costs associated with large-run printing. Understand the potential risks involved if you are stuck with any unsold inventory. 

Likewise, consider whether you’re willing to pay a potentially higher per-item cost in exchange for flexibility. Perhaps you want to test a new market or you’re unable to manage inventory. POD can be a solid choice when you’re just starting or introducing niche items.

Printing and Fulfillment Done Right

Whether you’ve decided on print-on-demand vs. large-run printing, or you’re still pondering between the two, getting in touch with Print Bind Ship may allow for greater clarity. We specialize in all things printing, fulfillment, shipping, and more. We not only help brands create unique, customized products, but we also take care of their warehousing and shipping needs. Ready to take the next step? Get in touch with Print Bind Ship for a free quote for your project here.


What is the difference between print-on-demand and large-run printing?

Print-on-demand is a printing method where products are printed one at a time as they are ordered, offering flexibility and customization. On the other hand, large-run printing involves printing a large quantity of products upfront, usually in bulk, which can be cost-effective for high-volume orders.

Which printing method is more suitable for small businesses or individuals?

Print-on-demand is ideal for smaller businesses or individuals who have limited resources and want to avoid the risk of large upfront investments. It allows them to test the market, offer a wide variety of products, only print what is ordered, and ultimately avoid excess inventory.

Can print-on-demand handle large order volumes?

Yes, print-on-demand can handle large order volumes as the technology used allows for efficient production and quick turnaround times. However, for extremely high-volume orders, large-run printing might be more cost-effective.